Barrow's Goldeneye

Waterfowl Identification

The head on the Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica, drake has a purplish sheen with a crescent shaped white spot in front of the yellow eyes. The back is black with rows of white spots. The chest, flanks and belly are white. The hen has a brown head and orange bill with a black tip. Her sides and back are gray and the underside is white.
Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS

These are active, strong-winged fliers moving singly or in small flocks, often high in the air. Distinctive wing-whistling sound in flight has earned the name of whistlers. Goldeneyes generally move south late in the season; most of them winter on coastal waters and the Great Lakes. Inland, they like rapids and fast water.

Barrow's goldeneye, predominantly a Westerner, is less wary than the common goldeneye. Hens of both species are look-alikes.

Length: 19"
Weight: 2 3/4 lbs.

Image comparing fulvous and Black-bellied whistling ducks wings/USFWS


 Distribution Map

Similar Species

In Flight
In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS

Drakes have a piercing speer-speer—hens a low quack. Both are usually quiet.

Last Updated: November 14, 2018